Claude Chastagner, professeur d'anglais à l'Université Paul
Valéry à Montpellier.
Song Remains the Same".
creativity in popular music.Clic
and Listen to music.mid
(lien ouverture en popup)
Song Remains the Same".
However, in the field of
popular music, the theory, albeit not always in
an overt form, is slowly becoming the most
widespread model to account for creativity. We
would like to give two recent examples. One is
an article by Simon Reynolds on techno music and
acid house. Reynolds explains that British youth
"misconstrued" the concept of acid
house when they first heard the term and the
music from Chicago. From a slang expression
meaning sampling, they assumed it meant
psychedelic. It became, says Reynolds, "another
prime example of British youth mis-recognising (and
re-motivating) a Black American
music" (our emphasis, 730).
adds: "'Ardkore is really just the latest
twist on the traditional contours of working
class leisure, the latest recycling of the
sulphate-fuelled-60-hour weekend of mod and
Northern Soul lore" (our emphasis, 735).
Another example is provided by Frith and Horne;
they state that with British Blues "the
determined pursuit of an original sound -the
sound of rock's origins- became the source of a
musical progression" (89). Numerous other
examples of a similar perspective on rock's
history could be given.
We would like to end this rapid
survey of the various conceptual tools used to
account for creativity in American popular
music, with an attempt at inverting the
proposition. We have seen how the notions of
revolution or recycling could be applied to
music, but could we apply music to them? In
other words, is rock music a revolutionary tool
or is it used on the contrary to recycle
society? Let us just sketch out what the
possibilities could be. Here again, two opposite
perspectives co-habit. With 30s folk-music and
60s protest-songs and soul, the idea has been
put forward that the empowerment of white and
black youth could be rooted in popular music,
that a cultural and artistic revolution could be
at the core of a political revolution (thus, in
Ice, Eldrige Cleaver pays his dues to Elvis
Presley as one of the causes of the
counter-cultural revolution, and insists on the
bridge he established between the white and
Others on the contrary purport that rock music
is used by corporate America as a means to
recycle any revolutionary ferment, as a tool for
consumer discipline and social control, that it
is part of the compost society uses to deflect
any risk of deflagration. This brings to mind
Walter Benjamin's position about art : the
question is not so much "what is its
position vis-à-vis the productive relations of
its time, does it underwrite these relations, is
it reactionary, or does it aspire to overthrow
them, is it revolutionary", but what is its
position within them. (261) The discussion thus
shifts from the issue of what artists can do for
the workers to what artists can do as workers.
Artists, it implies, should also try to change
the methods and techniques of artistic
production. Otherwise supplying a revolutionary
message by conventional methods risks negating
the impact that is intended.
as usual, the truth is somewhere in-between.
Whether one considers its impact on society or
the nature of its progress, American popular
music, as we hope this dossier has made clear,
is an ambivalent, dynamic process relying as
much on the past as on the present, on American
practises as on foreign ones, on tradition as on
innovation, on rupture as on recycling.
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